Even though we did Spring Break on a Shoestring, we splurged on one item – bringing out Grandpa to Dallas. He made the sacrifice and said “So Long” to Chicago’s wintry weather and headed down to see us and our promised 70 degree days.

As we sat at breakfast this morning, we began one of our many (welcomed) life conversations. We started to talk about Lucille, Jon’s mom. Dick shared that his lovely bride of almost 60 years has started presenting traits he has never seen before. Lucille, who has struggled with Alzheimer’s for over ten years, has been showing signs of crippling fear and great uncertainty. During their 50 years in Bolivia – sometimes in dangerous situations often uncertain situations – she had rarely deviated from her childlike unwavering faith. So, it’s hard for Dick to watch her struggling.

But, as we all know, the cruel reach of Alzheimer’s goes deep and strips the mind of any ability to be reasonable/logical. Rarely, if ever, does it allow the afflicted to touch base with reality at all. So… needless to say, she really doesn’t have the ability to get to that “perfect peace” the prophet Isaiah tells us is available for those whose minds are “steadfast” because they trust in God. The peace this sweet woman has tasted most of her years.

I couldn’t help but stir into the conversation pot another group that struggles with controlling their minds. …Teens.

The latest research seems to shed light on similar mind limitations in teens. Here’s an article (One Reason Teens Respond Differently To the World: Immature Brain Circuitry) from PBS’s Frontline. Sarah Spinks shares the following:

“We used to think that teens respond differently to the world because of hormones, or attitude, or because they simply need independence. But when adolescents’ brains are studied through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), we see that they actually work differently than adult brains.

At the McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass., Deborah Yurgelun-Todd and a group of researchers have studied how adolescents perceive emotion as compared to adults. The scientists looked at the brains of 18 children between the ages of 10 and 18 and compared them to 16 adults using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Both groups were shown pictures of adult faces and asked to identify the emotion on the faces. Using fMRI, the researchers could trace what part of the brain responded as subjects were asked to identify the expression depicted in the picture.

The results surprised the researchers. The adults correctly identified the expression as fear. Yet the teens answered “shocked, surprised, angry.” And the teens and adults used different parts of their brains to process what they were feeling. The teens mostly used the amygdala, a small almond shaped region that guides instinctual or “gut” reactions, while the adults relied on the frontal cortex, which governs reason and planning.

As the teens got older, the center of activity shifted more toward the frontal cortex and away from the cruder response of the amygdala.

Yurgelun-Todd, director of neuropsychology and cognitive neuroimaging at McLean Hospital believes the study goes partway to understanding why the teenage years seem so emotionally turbulent. The teens seemed not only to be misreading the feelings on the adult’s face, but they reacted strongly from an area deep inside the brain. The frontal cortex helped the adults distinguish fear from shock or surprise. Often called the executive or CEO of the brain, the frontal cortex gives adults the ability to distinguish a subtlety of expression: For the teens, this area wasn’t fully operating.”
I couldn’t help but consider the parallel between Lucille, who at the other end of life has lost access to the logical part of her mind, and teens. Teen life is in no way the same as Alzheimer’s, but it is interesting to ponder. And by no means should pondering give way to a teen free ride or a big old heap of excuses. I think it should, though, lead me to consider the incredibly important task I have as a parent – to be proactive and to be involved. Since the logic stuff hasn’t fully cooked, teen kids apparently need some direction in that area. When their minds can’t be steadfast, reasonable, logical … I  need to help them through it.

Something to remind myself when they’re DRIVING ME CRAZY (probably not the best term considering the topic). Something to remind myself when allowing them access to situations (movies, parties, etc) requiring a healthy dose of wisdom they apparently lack. Something to remind myself when they’ve really messed up, when their emotions run wild, when they just don’t make sense. So instead of throwing my arms up and walking away, remind me to turn around and meet them where they are … in a place where they often have very real difficulty making logical decisions. Then remind me to to hit on Chuck Bentley’s 3 t’s. Teach, Train and Test.

Thanks for walking the road with me.

Quick Update…
Sister Save-A-Lot got on the trampoline today (yippee!!)… not to jump. Just to sit and watch. She’s super fearful about her arm. I guess the break was a bit more traumatic than she’s allowed herself to feel. I can’t wait for her to hit that fear head on and jump when then time is ready.

TUNE in this week for video!!
… a few video clips and link to our first MOATblog Presents. I snuck in a panel discussion a few weeks ago that we taped so everyone can tap into some great resources (parents that have purposefully walked the road ahead of us). Due to my own technological challenges, it has taken me a few weeks. But boy has the effort been worth it. I can’t wait for you guys to check these clips out … and pass them on. I’m so grateful to these couples for sharing their wisdom and allowing me to post it.

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